US and German media reports that Ukrainians or pro-Ukrainians might have blown up the Nord Stream gas pipelines last year were taken with a grain of salt in Russia, with Moscow doubling down on calls for a UN-led investigation.
Two reports on the Nord Stream explosion emerged on Tuesday, with a piece in The New York Times pointing finger at a pro-Ukrainian group but without implying Kiev while German media suggested investigators in the country found that a yacht owned by two Ukrainians in Poland had been used in the operation.
Russian foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova quickly dismissed reports of Ukrainian involvement, suggesting on her Telegram channel that the information was aimed at diverting from recent allegations that implicated the US in the destruction of the pipelines.
'This is especially noteworthy given the attempts of the local officials and journalists to blatantly silence the resonant material of the Pulitzer Prize winner Seymour Hersh on the same topic'
Andrey Ledenev, who serves as Minister-Counselor at the Russian Embassy in Washington, said US media leaks from anonymous sources were picked up by media “in a heartbeat” and were intended to confuse those seeking the truth.
"This is especially noteworthy given the attempts of the local officials and journalists to blatantly silence the resonant material of the Pulitzer Prize winner Seymour Hersh on the same topic,” Ledenev said.
Hersh, a veteran investigative journalist known for getting whistleblowers to help uncover big stories, has alleged that Florida-trained US Navy divers last June planted remotely triggered explosives that destroyed three of the four Nord Stream pipelines months later.
US officials have vehemently denied involvement and described Hersh’s allegations as “utterly false.”
The new information this week came as Sweden, Denmark, and Germany recently told the United Nations Security Council that separate investigations were still ongoing.
White House spokesperson John Kirby told reporters on Tuesday that Washington was waiting for the ongoing investigations "and only then should we be looking at what follow-on actions might or may not be appropriate.”
But Moscow has been calling for a UN-led investigation, while Ledenev said “we have no faith in the ‘impartiality’ of the conclusions of the US intelligence,” according to TASS Russian News Agency.
The Times cited anonymous sources saying intelligence reviewed by US officials suggested those behind the pipeline explosions were Ukrainian or Russian nationals, or a combination of the two, who opposed Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“We perceive anonymous ‘leaks’ as nothing more than an attempt to confuse those who are sincerely trying to get to the bottom of things in this egregious crime,” Ledenev said.
The NYT also pointed out that the anonymous sources said US intelligence had so far been unable to identify the mastermind behind the attack.
Ledenev suggested the reporting was attempting to “shift the blame from the statesmen who ordered and coordinated the attacks in the Baltic Sea to some abstract individuals.”
Ukraine has also weighed in on the new reporting, with Mykhailo Podolyak, senior advisor to President Volodymyr Zelensky, telling Reuters that the government in Kiev was "absolutely not involved.”
"Although I enjoy collecting amusing conspiracy theories about the Ukrainian government, I have to say: Ukraine has nothing to do with the Baltic Sea mishap and has no information about 'pro-Ukraine sabotage groups,'" Podolyak wrote in a tweet.
The Times said US officials declined to disclose the nature of the intelligence, how it was obtained, or provide an understanding on the strength of the evidence.